The day(s) after chemo

Within 24 hours after a chemotherapy session, we would travel back to the hospital, where I would receive an injection of Neulasta. Neulasta prompts the body to boost production of white blood cells, as low white cell count (neutropenia) can result in secondary infections.  In addition to feeling wiped out, I now began to experience intense bone pain that would last for several days. This is a common side effect of Neulasta, and my oncologist had preemptively written a prescription for Percocet.

I was also experiencing the most intense heartburn of my life, ringing in my ears, and a bowel that would lurch between diarrhea and severe constipation. Exhausted, I spent lots of time sleeping in my ‘lazy girl’ recliner, but my sense of smell became disoriented (along with taste) and I couldn’t bear the smell of our newish oriental carpet.  David ended up having to haul it outside where he gave it an intense shampooing.  Luckily, it being June, I had the option of hanging out in the hammock on our screened-in porch, and it soon became my second home.

I was not without an attendant angel.  Our friend Miranda organized a schedule of prepared and delivered meals during the many weeks of chemotherapy.  She enlisted neighbors, friends and acquaintances, and an amazing bounty of food would arrive each evening.  Certain dishes I would have to avoid, both due to my repressed immune system and my skewed palate, but it was a huge burden off of David’s shoulders and great fun for my kids as well.

By the end of the second week, my hair began to come out.  I was taking a shower, and as I shampooed my head, my hands filled with clumps of hair.  I hadn’t been very concerned about hair loss, but when it happened, I became rather emotional. After I toweled off, I asked David to shave my head.  Soon the stubble would fall out as well, as well as any remaining hair on my body.  There was now no doubt that I was a cancer patient.

5 responses to “The day(s) after chemo

  1. Bald and beautiful!!!!

  2. Thanks, my friend! Linnea

  3. I have a client that went through chemo for ovarian cancer. She lost her job because of it… another story… but her biggest concern searching for a new one was that she had lost her hair, eyebrows, eyelashes, etc… She attended meetings/interactive presentations on how to wear a wig, draw on eyebrows, use false eyelashes, etc. She was trying to make herself presentable for the corporate world and a new jo search, but her biggest fear was: “They will know I have been seriously ill” or “I won’t get hired when they see me”. I found it horrible she was displaced from her job to begin with & some companies know their way around the system and legalities with very little compassion, but even moreso I found her fears about appearance sad. Wouldn’t or shouldn’t that be one of the least worries through this experience?

  4. *new job search

  5. Suzy, I think hair is not that important, but for a lot of people it is so much of their identity (just ask my sister Bink, who used to cut hair; people take it very seriously). And Farrah Fawcett: she evidently put off chemotherapy for some time as she couldn’t imagine herself without her trademark mane. How sad. But for your client, it was likely the fact that it screamed cancer. Even at the hospital, where I go for my treatments, my interaction with other patients is altered by the status of my hair: bald, definitely a patient, their understanding smiles say. Hair, well, maybe…
    I could actually write another blog about what it’s like to be in treatment that doesn’t reveal your status, such as I am now.
    Anyway, the loss of your hair is definitely one of those undeniable reminders that you are going through something that has changed you indelibly. That’s sometimes hard to stomach. Linnea

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